Without immigrants, milk prices would double

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Holstein
Holstein cattle being milked.

ARLINGTON, Va. — Half of all workers on U.S. dairy farms are immigrants, and the damage from losing those workers would extend far beyond the farms, nearly doubling retail milk prices and costing the total U.S. economy more than $32 billion, according to a new report commissioned by the National Milk Producers Federation.

The report, which includes the results of a nationwide survey of farms, found that one-third of all U.S. dairy farms employ foreign-born workers, and that those farms produce nearly 80 percent of the nation’s milk.

It concluded that a complete loss of immigrant labor could cause the loss of one-in-six dairy farms and cut U.S. economic output by $32.1 billion, resulting in 208,000 fewer jobs nationwide.

Read our related feature: Two sides to every border

Some 77,000 of the lost jobs would be on dairy farms. Retail milk prices, the report said, would increase 90 percent if all immigrant labor was lost. That would drive the supermarket price of a gallon of milk, which averaged $3.37 in June, to approximately $6.40 a gallon.

The survey, an update of one done in 2009, was conducted last fall, before immigration became a hot-button issue in the presidential campaign.

More immigrants

A comparison of the two surveys shows the number of immigrants working on dairy farms increased by 35 percent, or nearly 20,000, in six years. The portion of the milk supply coming from farms with immigrant labor increased by 27 percent.

The survey results do not distinguish between documented and undocumented foreign-born workers, but 71 percent of survey respondents said they had either low or medium levels of confidence in the employment documents of their immigrant workers.

As a result, the report said, a majority of dairy farmers are very concerned about actions such as immigration raids or employee audits. Despite this, 80 percent of dairy farms surveyed continue to hire immigrants.

“This report reinforces the urgent need for Congress to address this issue,” said NMPF President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Mulhern. “Farms that rely on hired foreign workers need their current labor force as well as an effective program to ensure an adequate future workforce. And the way to do that is to enact comprehensive immigration reform.”

Not taking jobs

“The notion that immigrants are taking these jobs away from American workers is simply not true,” added Randy Mooney, a dairy farmer from Rogersville, Missouri, and the chair of NMPF’s board. “Dairy farmers have tried desperately to get American workers to do these jobs with little success — and that’s despite an average wage that is well above the U.S. minimum wage.”

The report was produced for NMPF by Texas AgriLife Research at Texas A&M University. Researchers estimated that 150,418 employees worked on U.S. dairy farms in 2013, and that 51 percent of them, or 76,968, were immigrants.

It found the average hourly wage on dairy farms in 2013 was $11.54, 16 percent higher than in 2008. By comparison, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. The report concluded that a total loss of immigrant labor would reduce the size of both the U.S. dairy herd and the nation’s milk production by nearly a quarter.

More than 7,000 dairy farms would close, it added.

Less milk sales

Through economic modeling, researchers estimated that more than a third of the total economic damage from losing all immigrant labor on dairy farms would be from reduced farm milk sales.

The rest would come from losses in employee compensation, reduced purchases by farm employees and lost sales to businesses that support dairy farms, such as feed and equipment dealers. Likewise, researchers said, milk sales support many more jobs beyond the farm, than on the farm.

As a result, while a total loss of immigrant labor on dairy farms would mean 76,968 fewer people working on farms, it would also mean the loss of 131,240 jobs outside the farm.

Mulhern added that Washington’s failure to act on immigration reform is also preventing economic growth and job creation in other ways.

“The lack of a reliable source of workers is causing farmers to second-guess decisions to expand,” he said. “That’s economic activity that’s lost to both rural and urban communities — all because Washington won’t act on immigration reform.”

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10 COMMENTS

  1. The U.S. currently has eleven non immigrant guest worker visa programs.
    http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/employment/temporary.html

    There is no cap on the number of workers allowed into the U.S. under the H-2A temporary agricultural guest worker visa program.

    http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Resources/Resources%20for%20Congress/Congressional%20Reports/2011%20National%20Immigration%20%26%20Consular%20Conference%20Presentations/H-2A_and_H-2B_Visas.pdf

    Alabama had to bite the bullet and hire LEGAL Immigrants for its AG Industry:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-09-24/africans-relocate-to-alabama-to-fill-jobs-after-immigration-law
    Africans Relocate to Alabama to Fill Jobs After Immigration Law

    “East Coast began calling Atlanta refugee agencies several months ago looking for legal immigrants to come to Alabama for a year, said Mbanfu,
    refugee employment director for Lutheran Services in Atlanta. He said the company would have taken as many refugees as he could refer. The agency connected East Coast with refugees who had been in the country
    three to five years, he said.”

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2009-09-13-plants_N.htm
    Immigration raids yield jobs for legal workers

    ‘When federal agents descended on six meatpacking plants owned by Swift & Co. in December 2006, they rounded up nearly 1,300 suspected illegal immigrants that made up about 10% of the labor force at the plants.

    But the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents did not cripple the company or the plants. In fact, they were back up and running at full staff within months by replacing those removed with a significant number of native-born Americans, according to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

    “Whenever there’s an immigration raid, you find white, black and legal immigrant labor lining up to do those jobs that Americans will supposedly not do,” said Swain, who teaches law and political science.”

  2. An Atlantic Monthly article that shows that most economists’ thinking that an increased influx of immigrants provides more jobs for Americans is FALSE and does harm jobs for US workers and the economy:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/01/does-immigration-harm-working-americans/384060/

    Also, it is patently untrue that “immigrants” are the solution to low rate of start-ups:

    http://smallbiztrends.com/2015/01/immigration-reform-declining-start-rate.html

  3. The Liberal Case AGAINST Illegal Immigration:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/11/25/the-liberal-case-against-illegal-immigration.html

    This is the Progressive Case AGAINST Illegal Immigration:

    http://www.salon.com/2015/03/01/the_1_percents_immigration_con_how_big_business_adds_to_income_inequality_pits_workers_against_each_other/

    http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/immigrants-different-audacity-hope/2014/11/17/id/607937/
    Report: Obama’s Book Says Illegals Can Hurt Americans

    http://beforeitsnews.com/opinion-conservative/2014/11/didnt-anyone-in-the-hispanic-media-read-obamas-book-2936030.html
    Didn’t anyone in the Hispanic media read Obama’s book? Or listen to when he speaks?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idvRtDDPl_4
    Barack Obama in his own words from “The Audacity of Hope”
    – Illegal Immigration hurts Black Americans and Blue Collared Workers

    Video Not Working? I wonder why?!? Here’s an Audio Link:
    http://dailycaller.com/2014/11/16/shock-flashback-obama-says-illegal-immigration-hurts-blue-collar-americans-strains-welfare-video/

  4. As a dairy farmer, i have been INFURIATED by groups purporting to be “the voice of dairy farmers” when it comes to many things, illegal immigrants included. Most dairypeople I know DO NOT support the influx of foreigners. The expansion of dairy sizes have pushed THOUSANDS of dairy farms out of business-the “dumping” of this extra milk has caused milk prices to plummet to levels smaller farms cannot make a living from. The influx of foreigners is destroying this country and I am fed-up with an extremely greedy “middlemen” somehow inferring we producers embrace this.

      • I am upset that Farm and Dairy chose to publish such a biased and one-sided “article”…literally thousands of “use-to-be dairy farmers” who exited the dairy industry due to dairy expansions resulting in severe milk price reductions have an entirely different viewpoint than the one quoted here.

      • it is also interesting that absolutely no mention is made of the Ohio dairy that employed 2 immigrant workers who promptly MURDERED a third one hired after the “domestic” workers quit because of the mannerism of the migrant workers…the murderers suddenly left and both the sheriff department and immigration department refused involvement in investigation and thus 2 murderers got away…violence of immigrants swept under the rug like the Nebraska throat-slitting immigrant…

  5. Re Don Honda:
    THANK YOU for the great and truthful information.
    We had a local 300 cow dairy in Eastern Ohio that quit BECAUSE of his immigrant workers. ID’s – yes, they each had several and they would get together to brag about them.
    And the Hondurans wouldn’t talk to the Guatemalans – they would actually fight each other. The Mexicans wouldn’t talk to either group. It’s hard to get things done if the workers don’t talk to each other. And all of them just destroyed equipment in their carelessness.

    It’s hard to compete with California dairys that use such cheap labor, and what used to be local COOPs have become huge conglomerates. We used to have MMI which we thought was big, but now it has merged with coops from the New Jersey and New York areas.

    The price of milk in the stores hasn’t gone up anywhere near inflation rates in the last 20 years.
    The smaller farmers in this area that are making money have become Organic. That gets them out of the mega-commercial markets and they can make a living without knowing Spanish!

    • Thank you for your comment. I recall reading in the past about milk being dumped to stabilize prices, and excess dairy products being sold (given?) to the US Government for the same reason to be used in its food giveaways. Is this still happening?

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